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Hoba Meteorite

Grootfontein | Namibia

The Hoba Meteorite is the largest known single meteorite of its kind lying on the surface of the earth. It's mass is estimated at around 60 metric tonnes and measures 2.95m x 2.84m. The thickness varies between 75-122cm. As it consists of mainly iron and nickel, it can safely be described as an iron meteorite, although scientifically it is termed an ataxite; a meteorite with a high nickel content.

The Hoba Meteorite's age has been reasonably accurately estimated from the presence of a rare radioactive nickel isotope, with a half-life of less than 80,000 years. Armed with this information, scientists have been able to determine that the Hoba Meteorite fell to earth less than 80,000 years ago. The age of the meteorite has been estimated rather loosely to be between 190 million and 410 million years.

Farm Hoba West is situated on the edge of the Kalahari plai, in northern Namibia, and the Hoba Meteorite was discovered by Jacobus Hermanus Brits in 1920. A statement he made on his amazing find is kept at the museum in Grootfontein. It reads:

'One winter as I was hunting at the farm Hoba I noticed a strange rock. I sat down on it. Only its upper part was visible. The rock was black, and all around it was calcareous soil. I scratched the rock with my knife and saw there was a shine beneath the surface. I then chiselled off a piece and took it to the SWA Maatskappy in Grootfontein, whose director established it to be a meteorite.'

Since Luyten's first scientific report on the meteorite was published in 1929, vandals have left their unwanted signature on the meteorite. The local council, in conjunction with Rössing Uranium Ltd (who have provided funds to combat vandalism) have made the surrounding area more amenable for visitors. Since 1987, Mr J Engelbrecht, the owner of the farm since 1987, has donated an area for the development of the site. There is now an information centre for educational purposes. The new facilities were officially opened on 31st July 1987.

The Hoba Meteorite is on the Farm Hoba Wes No. 332 in the district of Grootfontein. It was proclaimed a national monument on 15th March 1955 and was withdrawn on 4th May 1979. Instead, an area of 25m x 25m, with the Hoba Meteorite as the centre attraction, was declared a national monument on 30 April 1979.

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